When You Don’t Know What Product You Need

Last week, I wrote about a new lower cabinet in my kitchen that has replaced a utensil drawer. This week, I want to talk about the new upper cabinet.

I used to have a set of open shelves in that spot. Now, with the widened doorway, I have a narrow cabinet with three shelves and a door.

I used the open shelves for stuff that I liked to keep handy. I’m using the new cabinet for some of that same stuff. The bottom shelf — the most accessible — holds trivets, a box of crackers, and a food scale.

When I had the open shelves, I managed to stand up the food scale on its side perpendicular to the trivets so that the scale wouldn’t fall over. However, in the new cabinet, I couldn’t do that. Every time I took something out of the cabinet, the scale tipped over. So I decided that I needed a cabinet organizer that would hold everything upright.

I looked for cabinet organizers on-line but found that they were all too wide for this narrow cabinet. I knew that there was a product out there that would help me, but couldn’t figure out exactly what it was.

Shortly after, I went to the Container Store to get the utensil holders that I wrote about last time. I was browsing the aisles looking for ideas when I saw an adjustable-width napkin holder. I wondered if a napkin holder would be the right solution for the food scale conundrum.

When I got home, I measured the food scale and went on Amazon to search for napkin holders. I ended up buying a clear acrylic napkin holder that is exactly the right width and is also tall enough to support the weight of the food scale. You can see it in the photo above as well as in the close-up below.

Had I not stumbled upon the adjustable napkin holder at the Container Store, I wonder if I would have ever thought of this as a solution. Sometimes you just get lucky!

Get Your Brooms and Mops Off the Floor

Over the weekend, I embarked on a small project that is giving me great happiness. I got my brooms off the floor of the closet.

As you probably already know, I am a huge fan of Command™ products. I’ve written numerous blog posts about them (see, for example, Commanding the Bathroom and Hooks at Your Command.) I’ve used Command hooks in my own home to hang keys, handbags, clothes, masks, necklaces, potholders, pans, and utensils. I’ve also implemented Command products for many of my clients to help solve their organizing challenges.

For the past month, I’ve been looking for opportunities to improve my own space. (See my recent blog post Changing It Up if you want to be reminded why.) After I consolidated some brooms and related cleaning products into a closet corner, I wondered if there were a way to make that spot neater. Then I remembered the Command™ Broom & Mop Gripper, which I’ve put up for several clients.

I bought a few of them and got to work in my closet. I now have a broom, and a Swiffer, and a dustpan off the floor and hanging on the wall. It makes me very happy to see them there, and I find myself peeking into that closet a few times each day.

One disappointment was that, despite a photo on the package showing that it was possible, I was unable to get the Swiffer WetJet™ to stay on the wall. It was fine without the liquid cartridge attached, but once I added a full cartridge, it came down overnight. Luckily, Command products come off the wall without doing any damage. So I put the product back up and used it for the dustpan instead.

I urge you to check out the full Command line of products for organizing help in every room.

Tricking Out My Kitchen

The more time I spend in my home, the more organized it gets. I’m continually revisiting spaces that I’ve already worked on to make them even easier to use.

Take my kitchen, for example. I’ve written about numerous kitchen projects in recent years. In Keeping A Lid on Your Pots and Pans and But I Paid So Much For It, I wrote about getting rid of pots I wasn’t using, rearranging my lower cabinets to make my pots and pans more accessible, and hanging my two most frequently-used pans on the wall.

The catalyst for my latest change was when one of my colleagues posted a picture on Facebook of the youCopia Pan & Lid 11″ Rack. This product lets you store frying pans, pot lids, and baking pans vertically so that they can easily be taken out and put back without having to rearrange everything. I had been struggling with that very issue, so I excitedly measured my cabinets and ordered it from Amazon.

While I was waiting for it to arrive, I gave some thought to the content of my lower cabinets. Ever since we got rid of the china closet in the living room (see You Have More Room Than You Think), one of my lower kitchen cabinets has been chock full of serving dishes that we rarely use. The other cabinet is one of those deep and wide cabinets that is partially a blind corner. It was actually rather spacious because we had gotten rid of so many large items in recent years.

On the day the Pan & Lid Rack arrived, I took everything out of both cabinets, scrubbed the cabinets carefully, and then started rearranging. The rarely-used serving dishes were carefully reviewed and culled, then stacked in the blind corner. The liquor that had previously been stored there was put in a better-lit spot. In the narrower cabinet, I put the Pan & Lid Rack on the bottom shelf and the pots on the top shelf. And I added one more frying pan to my wall of pans.

The Pan & Lid Rack has been working out beautifully. The baking pans that I use several times a week in my toaster oven are so easy to slide in and out. And the large pan cover that also gets used frequently is no longer taking up horizontal space and getting in the way of the pots. The slats of the rack are adjustable, so I was easily able to match the width of my items.

My three most frequently-used pans are now hanging on the wall, providing easy access. It’s such a pleasure now to cook and clean up, because it’s so easy to reach what I need and then put things away afterward. And that, my friends, is what organizing is all about. It’s not about making things look pretty and photo-worthy. It’s about making your life easier.

 

Transforming My Home Office

I recently wrote “When A Piece of Furniture Has To Go.” You can subtitle this post “When Another Piece of Furniture Has To Go”.

I’m referring to my desk. Not the desk where I spend most of my time working on my computer, but the desk I’ve had since I was a child. It also served me well through many years of adulthood. It was a place to pay bills and write letters and sign school permission slips. But that was before life became electronic. It’s not a good desk for a right-handed person to use a computer. So in recent years I mainly used it as a place to dump my mail, and for storing a multitude of office supplies and other items in its capacious drawers.

When I set up my home office many years ago in the corner of the living room, I put this desk at a right angle to my computer desk (which is to the left of what you see in the photo). That gave me easy access to the office supplies in the drawers. I also put a decorative file box on top for frequently-accessed files.

Spending so much more time at home during the last six months has attuned me to the ways in which my home’s setup could be improved. I started thinking that this desk took up a lot of floor space for something that was essentially a storage cabinet, as well as a paper magnet that frequently looked messy. So I decided to give myself the same type of advice that I give my clients: let the desk go.

First, I had to figure out what to do with the contents of the drawers. Fortunately, I have lots of storage space elsewhere. The end tables next to my sofa have drawers in them but were not being efficiently used. I cleaned out those drawers and either tossed the contents or found storage for them elsewhere. Then I moved some of my office supplies from the desk to those drawers. I measured the drawers and the contents, and then purchased some drawer organizer trays from The Container Store so that things wouldn’t shift around when I opened and closed the drawers.

I also redeployed some plastic drawers that were on the printer table next to my desk. I was using them to store different weights of paper. However, I rarely use anything but all-purpose printer paper anymore. So I transferred the other paper into a closet and put more office supplies in the drawers. I labeled the drawers so that I could easily find the new contents.

What about the decorative file box that sat on top of the desk? It was really a bit of an indulgence, because my file cabinet is about six steps away, right in my living room. I emptied the file box and distributed the contents into the appropriate drawers in my file cabinet. Then I offered the file box and its matching decorative folders on Buy Nothing, and they were gone by the end of the day.

The next step was to donate the desk. I took a few photos and submitted them to HousingWorks, one of the charities here in NYC that picks up furniture. They only accept furniture that is in really good condition, so while I was waiting for the pickup at the end of the week, I polished and touched up the wood, and vacuumed out the drawers. I was so happy when they took the desk away!

So now the desk was gone. But I still wasn’t satisfied. Now the little blue printer table looked shabby to me. It was originally the table for my hamster’s cage and all of his supplies. It was time to upgrade to a nice piece of furniture, one with doors so that I could hide away the plastic drawers and other supplies.

I looked on-line for quite a while before I found the perfect piece. It came from Macy’s and it took my daughter and me two hours to assemble. It matches my living room décor and is the right size for my printer. It has enough storage space inside to fit not just the plastic drawers, but also some other items that had been cluttering my computer desk.

As I enter my 15th year in business as a Professional Organizer, I feel like I finally have an attractive and efficient home office setup that is worthy of the rest of my living room.

 

Creating A Home Office

When New York City shut down back in March, we figured we wouldn’t have any problem working from home since we were already doing it. I’ve had a home office in the corner of my living room since starting my organizing business 14 years ago. My husband, a research scientist at a medical school, does a lot of writing on his laptop at the dining room table, going into the office only for meetings. While working from home was new for my daughter, she brought home her work laptop and settled into her bedroom.

However, as the months wore on, conflicts were inevitable. My husband and I were both holding frequent meetings via phone or Zoom, and my daughter’s job required her to be on the phone for much of the day. Since I have a desktop computer and am not easily relocatable, my husband would move his laptop to my daughter’s desk when one of us had a Zoom meeting, and she would decamp to our bedroom. Every morning we would compare our schedules to ensure that we each had a quiet place when we needed one. It was getting old.

I suggested that we set up a small desk in our bedroom for my husband to hold his meetings. It was really important to us that the desk be very low-profile so that it wouldn’t overwhelm our bedroom, which has a “bed and breakfast” vibe.

We selected a small space next to the dresser and bought the following:

  • A folding desk
  • A lightweight upholstered chair that matches our bedroom decor
  • A power strip.

We rearranged items already on top of the dresser so that a lamp, landline, and coaster were within easy reach. I dipped into my cache of organizing supplies to come up with two cord organizers that would keep his laptop and iPhone charger cords at his fingertips. Excess cables got tucked under the dresser.

We are so pleased at the way it turned out! My husband likes the space so much that he usually works in there even if neither of us has any Zoom meetings. My daughter appreciates not getting bumped from her room. And I enjoy how the blue chair enhances our blue and yellow bedroom decor. I even upped my game by replacing all the coasters in that room with yellow and blue ones.

By the way, the blue chair came in a set of two, so now I have a new chair at the writing desk in my home office, too!